‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
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The blood clot in Dillon Gee’s right shoulder probably proved the end of his season. But it’s not the end of the world.
Once he undergoes surgery Friday to repair the damage the clot caused to half of the artery, Gee will likely miss the rest of the season. But it will also, at least theoretically, prevent other clots from forming and thus allow him to continue his career unabated next season. And in that, Gee can be thankful. Because of the tingling he felt after Saturday’s winning start against the Cubs, Gee addressed a problem and allowed the doctors to catch it early before something truly horrible happened.
Remember, they’re nasty little things, these clots. They can affect not only a player’s career, but his very life. What if, let’s say, that clot broke off and traveled to his lungs, or worse, his heart. It might have killed him.
That’s why the concern for him as a person far outweighed anything baseball related, even as manager Terry Collins now grapples with how to replace the guy who just threw eight innings of one-run ball against Chicago. With a starting rotation turned shaky thanks to Gee’s clot and Johan Santana’s right ankle injury that will push tomorrow’s scheduled start to Sunday, Collins’ main thoughts remained with Gee as a person.
The good news here is that it’s probably not the end of the world, personally or professionally for the 26-year-old Texan. The clot is gone, and blood flow has been restored down the arm to those tingling fingers. Gee should be able to resume normal activity, eventually. Probably next season.
In actuality, his case is a lot like David Cone’s issues in 1996, the second season of his six-year go-around with the Yanks.
Cone, a former Met, missed four months of 1996 with an aneurysm and blood clots in the artery of his right arm. It was a scary time for Cone, who at the time didn’t know if he’d ever pitch again. The bubble in the artery, just above the crease of the armpit, had generated the clots that had traveled down the vessel and settled in his wrist, causing discoloration and numbness in his fingers.
A team of four doctors cut out the aneurysm and grafted a one-inch piece of vein taken from his left leg on either end.
The next four months were a waiting game, first to see if the graft would hold, and then to start throwing again. Finally, on Sept. 2, he came back with a seven-inning, no-hit effort against the A’s.
There’s no saying Gee will come back in that fashion. And he probably won’t be available again this season. The only reason Cone came back was because his problems happened earlier in the season, in May. Since we’re past the midway point now, it is only reasonable to believe that no matter how extensive or elementary Gee’s surgery turns out — the word aneurysm hasn’t been used in his case — there won’t be enough time this year to recover sufficiently to compete on a high level. He’ll need about six weeks recovery time to even start throwing again.
Still, he can look at Cone as sign that all is not lost. Cone went on to pitch until he ended his career on a second go-around with the Mets in 2003. In between, he threw a perfect game for the Yanks on July 18, 1999, Yogi Berra Day, as both the Hall-of-Fame catcher and Don Larsen, the only man to toss a perfecto in the World Series, looked on.
Really, all Gee can do right now what he deems best, which means an uncomfortable date tomorrow with the prominent Dr. Robert Thompson in St. Louis. His career and whether he gets back at the end of the season or not is irrelevant. His overall health is the key here, and that appears safe.
Blood clots are always dangerous. One created a career-ending stroke in former Astros pitcher J.R. Richard in 1980. Another delayed Mariano Rivera’s knee surgery by a month this season.
Numerous other pitchers have battled clots and won. Gee appears on that path.
As scary as it was, it wasn’t the end of the world. That tingling in his fingers — and the worry it caused Gee Sunday morning — might have saved his life and career.
Sometimes, the scariest things are the luckiest things to happen to us.
Let’s hope Gee has a safe recovery and is back in a Mets uniform soon.